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Howard, Anne Arundel join to form new Regional Transportation Agency

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced Thursday that Howard and Anne Arundel counties will be joining together to form a new transit partnership to jointly operate regional bus routes. 

The new organization, the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland, is expected to generate $2 million in annual savings, according to a county press release. 

The partnership was cemented last week by a memorandum of understanding signed by Howard and Anne Arundel, and will go into effect July 1 of this year. The RTA will coordinate and run all existing transit services in both counties, according to Howard County officials.

"We are taking a huge step forward for innovation and efficiency, and the customers of our transit services will directly benefit," Ulman said in a statement. "We recently created the first Howard County Office of Transportation to find a better way to provide service and streamline operations, and we are now able to execute a well-conceived plan, in conjunction with our neighbors."

"I am very excited about this partnership with Howard County and the benefits that the Regional Transportation Agency creates," Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman said in the same release. "As equal partners in this collaboration, both counties will have more effective management over operating costs, provide expanded service areas to public transit customers at a lower unit cost and have a more active role in transportation planning." 

With the creation of the RTA, both counties will be leaving Central Maryland Regional Transit, the nonprofit organization that currently coordinates transit among Howard, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. 

According to Howard County spokesman David Nitkin, CMRT put in a bid to operate services at the new RTA, but lost to First Transit. 

The new agency is expected to save member jurisdictions 17 percent on transit operations by reducing administrative, budgeting and accounting costs. Some of the current staff will be downsized in the move from CMRT, according to Nitkin. 

Howard County is expected to save $1.24 million a year, while Anne Arundel County will see an estimated $500,000 in savings, according to the press release. 

Savings in Howard County will go toward funding additional transit services and route improvements, according to the county. 

The RTA will be overseen by a commission made up of members from both jurisdictions. The counties are in talks to bring the cities of Laurel and Annapolis into the partnership, as well. 

The partnership will take a tangible step forward Friday with a groundbreaking for a new regional transit facility at Annapolis Junction in Savage. The facility will serve as a shared spot for service and maintenance of RTA vehicles. 

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